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L.A. Officials Destroy Notorious Gang Headquarters
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L.A. Officials Destroy Notorious Gang Headquarters

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L.A. Officials Destroy Notorious Gang Headquarters

L.A. Officials Destroy Notorious Gang Headquarters
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/100357195/100774476" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Los Angeles officials announced the demolition of the Avenues Street gang's headquarters. i

Los Angeles officials announced Feb. 4 they were going to demolish the headquarters for the Avenues Street gang, one of the biggest gangs in the city. Mandalit del Barco/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mandalit del Barco/NPR
Los Angeles officials announced the demolition of the Avenues Street gang's headquarters.

Los Angeles officials announced Feb. 4 they were going to demolish the headquarters for the Avenues Street gang, one of the biggest gangs in the city.

Mandalit del Barco/NPR

More On Los Angeles Gangs

The property was tricked out with sophisticated equipment, according to police. i

According to police, the property had a shrine honoring a folk hero to Mexican drug traffickers, and it was tricked out with sophisticated equipment. In recent years, police raided the house 14 times, arresting more than a dozen suspects and confiscating drugs and automatic weapons. Mandalit del Barco/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mandalit del Barco/NPR
The property was tricked out with sophisticated equipment, according to police.

According to police, the property had a shrine honoring a folk hero to Mexican drug traffickers, and it was tricked out with sophisticated equipment. In recent years, police raided the house 14 times, arresting more than a dozen suspects and confiscating drugs and automatic weapons.

Mandalit del Barco/NPR
A bulldozer tore up the house on Drew Street. i

A bulldozer tore up the house on Drew Street. Although Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo admits some of the new tactics are largely symbolic, and the gangs could simply relocate, he vows to continue pursuit. Mandalit del Barco/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mandalit del Barco/NPR
A bulldozer tore up the house on Drew Street.

A bulldozer tore up the house on Drew Street. Although Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo admits some of the new tactics are largely symbolic, and the gangs could simply relocate, he vows to continue pursuit.

Mandalit del Barco/NPR

Los Angeles is using some new tactics to battle street gangs. Along with arresting gang members, the city has also been suing them for damages.

And recently, authorities knocked down the headquarters for one of L.A.'s biggest street gangs.

The headquarters for the Avenues Street gang was an otherwise bland, single-level, two-bedroom brown stucco house on Drew Street in Northeast Los Angeles. But police say the property had a shrine honoring a folk hero to Mexican drug traffickers, and it was tricked out with sophisticated equipment.

"It was called the 'satellite house'; it had two satellite dishes up," City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said. "Also, it had a laser tripwire and a camera surveillance system. This was the In-N-Out of drug sales in this neighborhood for years," he added, referring to a popular regional fast-food chain.

For 20 years, the house served as a "terrifying monument to the power of the Avenues, which sought to intimidate and control this neighborhood," according to Delgadillo.

Delgadillo says Avenues members used the house to sell drugs and plan drive-by shootings under orders from the so-called "Mexican mafia" prison gang.

He says the satellite house had become so powerful a symbol that at least one member in prison asked for a photo in order to tattoo an image of it on himself. In recent years, police raided the house 14 times, arresting more than a dozen suspects, confiscating drugs and automatic weapons.

The family that reportedly lived there included Maria Leon, nicknamed "Chata," who was arrested for selling cocaine. She reportedly lived there with her son Danny, known as "Clever," who police killed during a shootout in front of the house. Officers say he had pulled an AK-47 on them. All of this prompted the city attorney to file a lawsuit to close down the house as a public nuisance.

"We're going to use every tool at our disposal to break the grip of this gang," Delgadillo said."Ya Basta!" he said, which means "enough is enough" in Spanish.

L.A. Ramps Up Laws Against Gangs

While city officials and neighbors looked on, Delgadillo gave the bulldozer driver a signal to take down the satellite house piece by piece, quickly reducing it to rubble.

To combat gangs, Los Angeles has been using legal tools, too: stepping up laws to ban gang members from congregating on the streets. And the city has begun seizing not only their homes, but also their cars, jewelry and other assets.

"We now have the authority to step in the shoes of victims and sue gangs as an entity and their shotcallers, longtime soldiers for the damage that that gang has caused to these neighborhoods," Delgadillo says.

Last month, his office successfully won a $5 million judgment against leaders of the 5th and Hill Street gang, said to have dominated the heroin trade downtown. The infamous 18th Street gang faces similar reparations.

Last year, the LAPD worked with immigration officials and other federal authorities — from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — to arrest hundreds of gang members under federal racketeering charges.

Chief William Bratton says as a result of the latest crackdowns, gang homicides are down 50 percent this year.

It's all part of a new urban reclamation project, in which the police are "trying to relocate many of the residents of neighborhoods into our federal and state prisons," Bratton says. "Many of them have already been relocated. I hope they like their new environment because they're going to be there for many years to come. It's a little less pleasant looking than this street."

Largely Symbolic Move, But Unending Pursuit

As the bulldozer tore up the house on Drew Street, some neighbors seemed relieved, but tattooed guys in baggy clothes shook their heads.

"They think they can stop crime by knocking down a house?" said Carlos Fernandez, 21. "How much money did they waste on this? They should have built a youth center, know what I'm saying? [So] the kids won't get into gangs."

Celeste Renteria came out with her baby to watch the demolition. She says many in the neighborhood relied on the Avenues members for protection.

"They're never gonna stop the guys from here, never gonna stop 'em," says Renteria. "They could do whatever, put the guys in jail for 15 years, 20 years, whatever. But kids are growing up [and will] probably do the same thing."

There will just be a new generation to carry out the gangs' legacies, she explains. City Attorney Delgadillo admits some of the new tactics are largely symbolic and the gangs could simply relocate. But he vows to continue pursuit.

"When we find the next headquarters, we are going to do the same thing there, too," Delgadillo says. "I want them to know that we are going to be relentless."

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